When the National Minimum Wage is increased in the autumn, it will remain far below a living wage and will leave millions earning poverty wages.
Jenny Jones AM is leader of the Green Party on the London Assembly and Green Party Mayoral candidate for 2012
Nobody should dismiss what an extra 19p and hour – around £7 per week – will mean to a minimum wage worker. But when the National Minimum Wage is increased in the autumn, it will remain far below a living wage and will leave millions earning poverty wages.
Since Boris Johnson became mayor of London, the minimum wage has fallen further behind inflation with each passing year. If it had kept pace, it would be raised to around £6.80 in the autumn instead of £6.50, putting another £11 per week in the lowest paid workers’ pockets.
This chart shows how the minimum wage dropped each year, away when adjusted for inflation, and the welcome but limited impact of this 19p increase.
I think this chart looks pretty dramatic, but it hides the biggest injustice of all – the National Minimum Wage has never been enough to live on in many parts of the country, including London.
Even though this announcement may close the gap a bit – we don’t yet know what the London Living Wage will rise to this autumn – the new national rate will still be much too low.
If your pay rises to £6.50 per hour later this year, you still won’t be able to find an affordable room in a flatshare in any London borough (check here). You’ll either need to claim housing benefit to cover part of your rent, or pass a crippling portion of your paycheque straight onto your landlord. Those rents, food bills and bus fares have been rising well above inflation for several years.
If you’re aged 18-20 and lucky enough to have a job your, minimum wage will only rise to £5.13 per hour, barely enough to rent a room in many London boroughs.
The Mayor of London has expressed his desire to see the living wage become the norm, even though his target is only to sign up 0.03 per cent of London’s businesses. He should remember that he had already earned a living wage for the year by 13 February.
The only way to eliminate poverty pay, and the best way to make inroads into our very unequal economy, is to make the living wage mandatory.
I’m glad that the government is talking about above-inflation rises for a few years to come. The current 19p increase must be followed in future years by much steeper increases, so that within a short space of time the minimum wage becomes a genuine living wage.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.